Abraham Bonnetplume has been sentenced to one year in jail for taking an Inuvik fire truck on a 100-kilometre joyride down the Dempster Highway in January, then refusing to give a breath sample when stopped by police.
The 43-year-old, appearing in court by video on Friday from the North Slave Correctional Complex, nodded as Territorial Court Judge Donovan Molloy issued his sentence.
Molloy said because of Bonnetplume’s “unenviable” criminal record, which includes previous convictions for impaired driving, he had to sentence Bonnetplume to “real jail time” even though this was not a violent incident.
The judge said he was choosing a sentence at the lower end of the available spectrum, however, due to Bonnetplume’s “significant” Gladue factors and as he agreed to attend treatment. (The Gladue principle, named after Cree woman Jamie Tanis Gladue, instructs judges to consider the systemic or background factors that play a part in bringing an Indigenous offender before the courts.)
“I think it is warranted and I think restraint needs to be shown,” the judge said of a lesser sentence.
Molloy added that he recognizes Indigenous people leaving their communities to attend treatment down south, as there is no treatment centre in the NWT, is “incredibly difficult.”
Molloy said he hopes treatment will help Bonnetplume to stop drinking but, if he can’t, he needs to stay away from motor vehicles as he could kill or hurt someone and end up spending years in jail.
“I hope in treatment that you find a path that is healthier than the one you are on,” Molloy said.
“It would be very sad if you spent the rest of your life in and out of jail.”
Bonnetplume is prohibited from driving for eight years. Once he is released from jail he will be on probation for two years.
While Bonnetplume had pleaded guilty to charges of joyriding and refusing a breath sample, there was dispute over whether he stole the truck from the fire hall and was responsible for the damage to it, or began driving it some time later.
The Inuvik Fire Department said on the night of January 19, its 105-foot ladder truck went missing from outside the fire hall where it had been idling. RCMP searched the town and were unable to locate the vehicle until they heard radio “chatter” that a fire truck was on the highway headed toward Fort McPherson.
The fire truck was located 129 km south of Inuvik in an area just north of Tsiigehtchic. There, police arrested Bonnetplume, the sole occupant of the vehicle.
At the time, the Town of Inuvik said minor damage had been noted to the vehicle.