A Yellowknife man who “lost everything” to cocaine was on Thursday jailed for a range of crimes, including severely beating a woman as she slept.
Bruce Richardson’s tragic upbringing was blamed for his addictions and subsequent criminality. He received a one-year sentence for the aggravated assault by choking of a long-time female friend after a night of drinking last spring at a Yellowknife hotel.
“The past does not control the future, but it does have a huge footprint on it,” defence lawyer Paul Falvo told a Territorial Court sentencing hearing on Thursday.
“The circumstances that Mr Richardson found himself in, and grew up in? It could almost be said to be inevitable that there would be some form of trouble down the road.”
As a child, Richardson and his siblings were apprehended multiple times by authorities after being left on their own.
He was forced to work at the age of nine – performing manual labour on a fishing boat and cutting wood – and suffered physical and sexual abuse in his youth.
Beatings from his father came from “axe handles, extension cords, seat belts, and clothing belts,” said Falvo, noting Richardson eventually ran away from home for good.
“At school, it was difficult, being of mixed heritage – Chipewyan and European. He felt he was too white for the Indigenous kids and too Indigenous for the white kids.”
His parents were residential school survivors, Falvo noted. Richardson was “pushed to drink alcohol” by older siblings and, as a result, became addicted at a young age.
“More recently, a dependency on cocaine caused him to lose everything,” said Falvo.
“Just a few years ago, Mr Richardson was working very well as a commercial fisherman with his own boat.”
Assault, mischief, and thefts
Falvo said Richardson, 60, has been trying to overcome these challenges and completed an anti-violence course in March.
However, the court heard during his trial last month, he assaulted a woman at Yellowknife’s Discovery Inn on April 27 after a day of drinking.
On September 21, Judge Christine Gagnon found Richardson guilty of aggravated assault by choking and not guilty of two counts of uttering threats, one count of forcible confinement, and two counts of breaching court orders.
This week, Gagnon said she needed to “carefully balance” sentencing principles that require she take into consideration the fact Richardson is Indigenous and also that his victim is Indigenous.
His criminal record includes 13 convictions, many for violent crimes such as assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon, and assaulting a peace officer.
Gagnon noted Richardson was supposed to be a trusted friend of the woman.
In addition to the one-year term for the aggravated assault by choking conviction – the Crown had called for twice that time – Richardson was also sentenced to a total of 45 days for assaulting a worker and thefts at the downtown Independent food store in January.
He was also sentenced for mischief to an RCMP vehicle that month. That sentence was considered to be time served for the remand credit Richardson had accumulated.
Once released from jail – with additional remand credit, he has 143 days remaining – Richardson will be on probation for two years, during which he must make regular reports and take counselling as directed.
He can have no contact with the woman or the person he assaulted at the store. He will have to provide a DNA sample for the national crime databank and be banned from having firearms for five years.
Richardson still faces assault charges connected to another incident, in April, which left two people injured on Yellowknife’s 50 Street.