A man has been sentenced to 18 months in jail after stabbing his uncle in the back with a 10-inch kitchen knife in Behchokǫ̀.
The victim forgave his nephew but a Territorial Court judge expressed concern about the trigger for the early morning attack.
Shawn Beaulieu pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in a case that would have been difficult to prosecute, with an uncooperative victim, the court heard. Judge Donovan Molloy determined 18 months was fit for Beaulieu, who had no prior criminal record.
“It appears that none of the injuries impaired [the victim’s] long-term physical health and he has forgiven Mr Beaulieu,” Molloy said, reading his decision on Tuesday. “That forgiveness is relevant to this sentencing decision. However, the larger community interest in maintaining a safe and peaceful community does not make it determinative of the outcome.
“There is an absence of evidence of significant Gladue factors and I am unable to conclude, on the evidence tendered, that mental illness contributed to the commission of this very serious crime.”
The longstanding Gladue principle requires judges to consider the factors that may bring Indigenous offenders before the courts and make sentencing decisions accordingly — up to and including community alternatives to incarceration.
Crown prosecutor Billi Wun had asked for a two-year sentence followed by one year of supervised probation.
Defence lawyer Peter Harte suggested Beaulieu’s nine months of time served, followed by two years of supervised probation, would be appropriate.
Molloy noted: “There is a significant gulf between the sentencing positions of the parties.”
After the decision was rendered and the judge had left the courtroom, Beaulieu hugged loved ones before being taken to jail by Sheriff’s officers.
A family member was heard to say: “This is not what I expected to hear today.”
On November 7, 2020, Beaulieu was residing with his aunt and uncle in Behchokǫ̀ as required in his bail order.
At 3am, after consuming alcohol and shatter (a concentrated form of cannabis), the 19-year-old pursued his uncle upstairs after grabbing a large knife from the kitchen.
Beaulieu repeatedly stabbed the older man, leaving non-lethal wounds that required stitches.
RCMP were called and Beaulieu admitted his crime to the arresting officers.
Risk of other attacks
“Mr Beaulieu’s motivation for attacking his uncle is unclear,” said Molloy, adding the two “had a long-standing relationship of mutual affection and respect, and [the victim] was simply heading to his bedroom at the time of the attack.
“The lack of any clear motive is also of concern in that, in the absence of any identifiable triggering event, one must wonder if there is a risk of Mr Beaulieu carrying out other random attacks.
“[The victim’s] wife and children were also present in the home on the evening in question. The attendance of the police and the significant amount of blood from the wounds must have also been extremely unsettling for them.”
Molloy said the victim was fortunate not to have suffered more significant injuries that could have left a permanent impairment.
The judge said Beaulieu and his siblings “were well cared-for in a loving home environment without substantial conflict or other exposure to trauma.” Beaulieu was “generally regarded positively as a student” and did not have any significant disciplinary history or any other issues at school until around his 18th birthday.
In a letter entered at the sentencing hearing, the principal of the school stated she noticed a marked change in Beaulieu’s behaviour.
“By way of examples, she referenced him hallucinating, wandering off and behaving unpredictably, observations that were inconsistent with her previous experience with him,” said Molloy.
Beaulieu’s stepmother said their “formerly respectful, agreeable and loving son became difficult to deal with and parent, instead being disrespectful and defiant.”
The stepmother believes these changes coincided with Beaulieu’s significant cannabis usage.
“The principal and his stepmother are obviously unqualified to say whether drug usage caused or contributed to his apparent decline,” said the judge. “It appears that he may have experienced a decline in his mental health that continues to present.
“While no medical evidence was called, while on remand, the correctional authority saw fit to have him assessed by a medical professional and it appears that this resulted in him being prescribed a psychoactive medication normally associated with the treatment of mood disorders.
“Given that the defence position largely hinged on the court accepting that Mr Beaulieu was and is mentally ill, it is unfortunate that it did not tender any professional medical opinion. Reports attached to the pre-sentence report suggest that in some cognitive aspects, Mr Beaulieu is a lower-functioning individual with some anger management issues. Outside of those basic assessments, the court has little evidence upon which it can conclude that Mr Beaulieu was or still is mentally ill.”
With a remand credit of 267 days, Beaulieu has 282 days left to serve. Following that, he will be on probation for 18 months, during which he must abstain from possessing or consuming alcohol or illegal drugs.
He must also take counselling or programming as directed by his probation officer, including anger management counselling. He is prohibited from having contact or communication with the victim, unless he communicates advance consent in writing to the probation officer.
Beaulieu will have to provide a sample for the national DNA databank and be prohibited from possessing firearms for a period of 10 years, but he can apply for a sustenance exemption.
“Aggravated assault with a knife is an extremely serious offence,” noted Molloy, “and unfortunately there are an abundance of such offences in the Northwest Territories.”