Drug dealers who ply their trade in the NWT “appear like vultures” to profit from communities already struggling with social issues stemming from the legacy of residential schools, said a Supreme Court judge.
While sentencing Cassius Zane Paradis, Justice Shannon Smallwood declared courts need to send a strong message to deter others who would come north to deal drugs.
Paradis, of Edmonton, received a total of five years in prison for several charges, including trafficking cocaine and possessing a loaded, semi-automatic AR-15 style rifle.
“The impact of cocaine on our society has been devastating,” she said Friday in a Yellowknife courtroom.
“People like Mr Paradis who come from the south to traffic cocaine and prey upon our communities must be condemned.
“How can communities heal when people like Mr Paradis appear like vultures to profit off the weakness and addiction of others?”
Cocaine continues to be a “scourge on society,” she said, noting the drug devastates lives, families and communities.
Paradis, 30, sat quietly in the prisoner’s box as he listened to details of his crime.
He had driven to Fort Providence in October 2018 and was cruising through the community with a 15-year-old male youth when he was pulled over by RCMP.
Police discovered a cache of weapons, cocaine, a client “scoresheet,” and cash – much of it in a safe in the trunk of the Volkswagen.
Paradis was found guilty after an earlier trial and, on Friday, was sentenced for 10 drug and weapons-related offences, including: possessing cocaine for trafficking; possessing cash obtained through crime; illegal possession of a firearm; possessing a knife dangerous to the public peace; and possessing a firearm while prohibited.
Paradis was also on a 10-year firearms prohibition for a weapons offence in January 2017, in Alberta.
“The use and storage of (illegal) firearms, particularly this type of firearm, raises significant public safety concerns,” said Smallwood, noting the gun was fully loaded with 40 rounds of ammunition but not operational.
There was no evidence that Paradis knew the weapon was jammed, or if he would have had the knowledge how to fix it, she said.
In addition to the five-year total sentence, Smallwood extended the firearms ban to 12 years and ordered Paradis to submit a DNA sample for the crime databank.
Paradis was given credit for 10 months and two weeks of pre-trial custody, meaning he has four years and six weeks left to serve.
Smallwood noted there were several breaches of Paradis’ rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by RCMP when they stopped his vehicle without adequate reason. However, while characterizing the breaches as “significant,” the judge determined they “were not at the most serious end of the spectrum.”
During the first part of the sentencing hearing on May 9, defence lawyer Benjamin Lotery said Paradis was Métis, but not formally recognized as such.
Smallwood said she “accepted Mr Paradis is of Métis descent,” adding the Gladue principle had been considered when determining his sentence. 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.
Cassius Zane Paradis is seen in a photo uploaded to Facebook.
“I have not heard much about Mr Paradis’ Aboriginal background, or how it may have played a part in bringing him before the courts, but I have heard of his personal circumstances which reveal a troubled background,” she said.
Paradis started consuming alcohol and drugs while young and was addicted to alcohol, cocaine, and the psychoactive tranquilizer Xanax.
He ended up on the streets when he was a teenager and he did not complete high school.
He has become a journeyman scaffolder and is engaged to a woman in Edmonton.
Crown prosecutor Morgan Fane had called for a seven-year sentence, while defence lawyer Lotery had argued for a three-year term.
The 15-year-old young offender found in the car with Paradis several months ago pleaded guilty to a drug charge.
Little is known of the youth, or how he came to be in the car with Paradis.