Warning: This report contains details involving child abuse, as heard in court, that readers may find disturbing.
A man in his mid-twenties “committed the unthinkable” when he raped two young girls, an NWT Territorial Court judge has said.
Justice Christine Gagnon agreed with Crown prosecutor Billi Wun, committing the convicted man on Friday to a total of four and a half years in prison for plying two girls, aged 11 and 12, with alcohol before sexually assaulting them in 2019.
“Their ages make the victims particularly vulnerable,” Gagnon said, noting the age difference of more than a decade between the girls and their attacker. “I find that he was in a position of trust in relation to them and that he breached that trust.
“These girls should have expected protection from him and obviously this was not what he offered. The harm inflicted on these victims, as evidenced in their victim impact statements, is significant.”
The identity of the man and the community where the crimes occurred are being withheld to comply with a publication ban on any details that could identify the victims.
In one of her final rulings before leaving the bench, veteran jurist Gagnon said under current laws, a sentence of eight years would “not be a stretch” in this case. Sex crimes involving victims under 16 years of age carry a maximum 14-year sentence.
Defence lawyer Alanhea Vogt had asked for a total sentence of 27 to 33 months. She noted the man had pleaded guilty to the crimes – two counts of sexual interference and one count of breaching a bail order – adding he was Indigenous, remorseful, and himself sexually assaulted by an adult when he was young.
The court heard the man’s drinking and emotional issues increased after his girlfriend accidentally died of exposure several years ago. Vogt said the man blamed himself for her death.
Gagnon said she accepted those mitigating factors, but listed a number of aggravating aspects of the crimes the man committed over a one-month period in 2019.
The first victim was approached by the man in August 2019, given alcohol, and subsequently sexually assaulted three times over three weeks. The man approached the second girl in late September.
The man would contact the girls online and meet them overnight in abandoned or empty homes.
“He told one of the girls that he loved her. She believed him and thought that he was her boyfriend,” Gagnon said. “She felt duped when her parents made her realize this was not the case.”
The man was released back into the community on bail with strict conditions, which he violated in April 2020. He was found intoxicated with one victim in a trailer.
In a recent decision, Gagnon noted, the Supreme Court of Canada directed all judges to “depart from previous precedents” and increase the penalties for sexual violence committed against children. That reflects amendments Parliament made to the Criminal Code to better protect children from abuse.
The man has significant pre-trial custody credit, leaving a little over 31 months remaining in his sentence.
Gagnon recommended the man be allowed to serve his time in an NWT jail, closer to his supportive parents, rather than in a southern prison. During sentencing arguments earlier this month, however, the man’s lawyer said he is going to need “actual, real help” to safely return to society. That type of intense programming for sexual offenders is more widely available in the federal penitentiary system.
In addition to the time behind bars, the man will have to provide a DNA sample to the national crime databank, be on the federal sex offenders’ list for 20 years, observe a firearms prohibition for 10 years (he can apply for a sustenance exemption), and stay away from places where people under the age of 16 could be present.
The man can’t be with anyone under the age of 16 unless under the supervision of a court-approved adult. The man can’t be within 25 metres of the residences of the two girls.