A man who went on a drunken rampage in Fort Smith after a family tragedy, threatening a corrections worker and throwing gasoline on a former partner’s house, was sentenced on Thursday.
Joseph Emile, 31 – a man convicted of the manslaughter of his older brother in 2008 – was distraught after his younger sister died by suicide over Christmas.
He banged on the doors of the two women in the middle of the night, leaving them in fear for their safety to this day, a Yellowknife court heard.
“Fort Smith is a small community and Mr Emile’s family lives in close proximity to the victims,” Territorial Court Judge Donovan Molloy said, reading his decision.
“Mr Emile’s previous history of violence in the community is well-known.”
Emile was sentenced to six years on a manslaughter charge 11 years ago, following the stabbing death of his older brother, Jackson Benwell.
On Thursday, the judge struggled over whether to banish Emile entirely from the community of Fort Smith during a one-year probation period that would form part of his sentence.
In victim impact statements, both victims spoke of “significant trauma and a high degree of fear for their safety on Mr Emile’s return to Fort Smith,” said Molloy.
“Mr Emile’s return to Fort Smith will disrupt their lives via their legitimate fears,” said the judge, noting Emile has convictions on his record for assaulting his former partner.
“Emile employed gasoline and death threats in a manner that continues to cause the victims fear and trauma.”
Molloy said he also had to consider the fact that Emile is Indigenous, as are his two victims.
The recent report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls called on governments to evaluate the impacts of Gladue principles.
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.
“In terms of applying the Gladue factors in these circumstances, I note what some see as a paradox when the victims of violent crimes committed by Indigenous men are Indigenous women,” said Molloy.
“In many instances, the Indigenous women have experienced the same or worse levels of disadvantage and discrimination in their lives.
“One must ask, how do Indigenous women perceive our justice system in what may be seen as a one-sided application of the Gladue factors?
“Beyond the discrimination and disadvantages they have already faced, they have heaped on to them the repercussions of being a victim of additional violence.”
The court heard Emile had been living in Edmonton for some time and he went to Fort Smith for the holidays.
Molloy said Emile went to a woman’s house twice in the early morning of January 5 and banged on the door, yelling at one point: “You are a [expletive] correctional officer and I am going to [expletive] kill you.”
Police were called and, while searching for him, were notified he was at his ex-girlfriend’s house, “threatening to burn it down using gasoline,” said Molloy.
On arrival at that residence, officers “smelled a strong odour of gasoline,” said Molloy.
“Mr Emile … returned several times, banging on her door. On his last return he started pouring gasoline on her residence, while threatening to burn both her and her residence.”
Emile was on a probation order at the time to keep the peace and be of good behaviour, the court heard.
Officers found Emile hiding behind the oil tank of a nearby residence. He struggled with RCMP all the way to the detachment, the court heard.
In sentencing Emile, Molloy noted the man had a tough upbringing.
“Emile’s background is similar to many of the Indigenous men that come before this court,” said Molloy, noting Emile’s parents were survivors of the residential school system.
“Alcohol abuse and violence were not strangers to Mr Emile and his siblings during their childhoods. Mr Emile resided in youth homes at different points of his childhood. He had struggles with addictions, including alcohol dependency, and was impaired by alcohol at the time of these offences.”
Emile has a four-month-old child “waiting for him [in Edmonton] with his girlfriend,” said the judge, while deciding whether to banish the man from seeing other family members in Fort Smith.
In the end, Molloy sentenced Emile to a total of 18 months for two counts of uttering threats to kill, one count each of mischief, resisting arrest, and breaching a court order.
A remand time credit of 239 days will apply, meaning Emile has 301 days left to serve.
On his release, he will be partially banned from Fort Smith – which means he is only able to be in the community for 10 days at a time, with permission from his probation officer and only “for family or community celebrations and other cultural activities,” said Molloy.
Emile will have to notify Fort Smith RCMP by telephone in advance of his planned arrival and return dates.
“I … note that for Mr Emile, given that almost all of his convictions were recorded in Fort Smith,” said the judge, “he may be experiencing triggers there that lead him into conflict with the law.”