A man recently convicted of domestic violence believes his life in exile from Inuvik has been like a jail sentence.
The man — who cannot be named due to a publication ban — was banned from the Beaufort Delta community in July 2019, after he was charged with assaulting his wife in front of their children.
“He was released [on bail] conditions that had him banned from his home community, that had him on no-contact conditions with the victim, that essentially banned him from having any meaningful contact with his children,” defence lawyer Jay Bran said in NWT Territorial Court last week, noting the man has since been living in Yellowknife.
In a pre-sentence report read to the court, the man wrote, “I’ve been punished enough, I haven’t seen my kids in 17 months.”
Bran said that was “worse than a jail sentence.”
The lawyer argued his client should be sentenced to time served — he has 12 days of remand credit — plus a lengthy probation period and community service.
If the judge determined incarceration was required, Bran said six months house arrest would be suitable.
‘This is a very frustrated man’
Crown prosecutor Andreas Kuntz argued the man should serve four months in jail followed by one year probation. He noted the man’s criminal record includes a prior assault on his partner from the summer of 2018.
Bran said that had his client pled guilty in July 2019, and served that sentence, he would have been back home and able to see his kids by the fall.
“This is a very frustrated man — he’s very upset. He is missing out on so many things with his children,” Bran said. “When he says things like ‘I’ve been punished enough,’ I can certainly understand where that’s coming from. It’s not him saying, ‘I’m not responsible.’ It’s somebody who is talking out of frustration and sadness.”
The man was originally charged with indictable sexual assault, along with five other charges. The Crown stayed the sexual assault charge in February and downgraded the remaining counts to less-serious summary conviction.
In September, the man pleaded guilty to assault and uttering threats to cause death.
Disagreement over details
The man, however, does not agree with the version of events presented by the Crown. He maintains that his common-law wife initiated the argument, which he took too far.
According to Kuntz, the assault, which took place on the weekend of July 13, 2019, involved an argument sparked by the man’s allegations of infidelity against his partner.
“The argument escalated to the point where [he] threatened to kill [his partner], before he dragged her by the hair into the living room, where he then kicked and punched her. This took place in front of their [several] children,” he described.
“This resulted in [the woman] having bruising to many parts of her body: face, legs, ribs and back.”
Another assault took place the following day, when the man struck the woman in the back of her head and threatened to break her nose. The man then threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the assault, Kuntz said.
The woman reported the incidents to RCMP a few days later. The couple’s eldest child also made a report to police about what they witnessed.
The woman is Indigenous and considered to have increased vulnerability under law.
The man is also Indigenous, suffered sexual abuse as a teenager, and has a problem with alcohol.
The longstanding Gladue principle requires judges to consider the unique systemic or background factors which may have brought an Indigenous offender before the courts and to make sentencing decisions accordingly — including alternatives to incarceration.
“[The assaults were] witnessed by their children, raising the spectre of further inter-generational trauma here,” Kuntz added.
Jail time required, says judge
Judge Garth Malakoe said he recognized the man had been subject to “harsh” bail conditions, but ordered a sentence of three months in jail, followed by one year probation.
“These assaults and threats took place over two days, this was not an isolated incident,” Malakoe said. “The assault was prolonged … and resulted in bruising to her body, her face, her legs, her ribs, her back … [she] was threatened in front of the children. [He] did that a month after he was off probation for an assault [on the same woman], for which he received one day in jail and probation for twelve months.
“Jail is the only sentence that makes any sense in this case.”
In addition to jail time, the man will have to provide a DNA sample for the national crime databank and is prohibited from having firearms or ammunition for five years.
While on probation, the man won’t be able to contact or communicate with his common-law wife, unless she permits it.
He can arrange through a third party to visit his children.
Bran said his client believes the couple can reconcile their relationship.