Warning: This report includes details of sexual offences, as heard in court, that readers may find disturbing.
Three young children in a small NWT community were sexually assaulted after social services and corrections authorities failed to heed repeated warnings from experts about a teenaged rapist, a judge said.
Territorial Court Judge Donovan Molloy said on Friday the failings of social services and justice department staff in both this case and others “could potentially be construed by some as a more insidious form of colonialism.”
“We now have three additional victims of sexual abuse who may have been spared such awful trauma if the recommendations of qualified professionals had been adequately acted upon,” said Molloy.
“It ought to have been apparent to social services and corrections authorities that if [the offender] was permitted to return to his home community – with unsupervised access to young children, without significant parental controls, and without significant treatment tailored to his risks as a sex offender – he would likely sexually victimize other young children from his community.“
Molloy said a system that removed Indigenous children from their families and communities for treatment but did not meaningfully support their rehabilitation would only add to the overrepresentation of adult Indigenous people in the prison system.
“The perversity of such results is amplified when those lapses appear to have contributed to the sexual victimization of other children,” he said.
The offences date to a period between 2014 and 2016. They are the subject of a court case now as the victims did not immediately come forward.
At the time, the offender was on probation following his conviction in early 2014 for a major sexual offence involving another child. He was supposed to be receiving treatment and counselling.
However, the then-teenager instead “manipulated and abused three children,” Molloy said.
“The two male children [aged six and eight] that he sodomized were considerably younger than him and he ignored their protests while committing those offences,” said the judge.
Those crimes occurred when the offender was 13 and 14 years old in 2014 and 2015. In the third offence, the offender was 15 when he lured a pre-teen girl into his sister’s bedroom in the fall of 2016 and threw himself on top of her.
Crying and yelling, she broke free, but the offender blocked her escape. He told her he was sorry, tried to hug her, and told her not to tell anyone.
The court heard the girl only told anyone else what had happened in October 2019.
The two boys attacked in the earlier rapes – in which one victim witnessed the other being sodomized – also waited years before feeling able to speak out about their abuse.
Reports document need for help
The offender eventually pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Since he was aged 20 when entering that plea, any jail time is to be served in an adult institution.
“The offences here are heinous,” said Molloy, adding the offender’s lawyer had “placed a great deal of emphasis on what he states is an omission on the part of corrections and social services authorities” to ensure the offender received treatment and intervention after his first conviction in 2014.
A pre-sentence report stated the teenager’s social worker had identified a treatment program in Calgary for male sex offenders. Molloy said various documents put forward by the defence showed that, “from 2013 forward, various governmental authorities knew that [the offender] needed intensive supervision and sex offender treatment.”
The judge said the evidence suggests those recommendations were ignored.
Following his original conviction in 2014, the offender did attend a Wood’s Homes facility in Alberta for nine months. A report prepared there indicated a need for “ongoing intensive supervision … by persons capable of understanding the seriousness of [his] sexual behaviour” and of monitoring “all contact between [the offender] and vulnerable persons,” meaning children under 12 years of age.
That report stated the offender’s parents needed “substantial parenting supports” to manage their son’s behavioural, emotional, and cognitive challenges. He was diagnosed as a moderate risk to reoffend sexually “if he received intensive supervision and limitations were imposed to reduce opportunities for him to re-offend.”
In 2015, an NWT fetal alcohol spectrum disorder diagnostic clinic referred the offender to a psychologist who assessed him as being “low to very low functioning” and requiring a very high level of structure, support, and supervision within home, school, and community settings.
In 2017, the Department of Health and Social Services was concerned about the offender’s “sexually intrusive behaviours, criminal behaviours, and moderate gang involvement.” The department referred him to the Ranch Ehrlo Society in Saskatchewan.
He was released after a three-month stay, with officials recommending he reside “in a structured environment with caregivers familiar with his psychiatric profile and equipped to deal with the challenges his behaviour presents.”
The offender had also accumulated more convictions before turning 18, including breaking and entering with intent, an assault, and two counts of failing to comply with appearance notices.
Direct supervision by corrections director
On Friday, Judge Molloy said the offender suffers from a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and described his upbringing as very unstable.
“Prolonged alcohol abuse and violence were realities for [the offender] and his siblings. His parents and grandparents are and were impacted by colonialism, residential schooling, and other detriments in the context of Gladue factors.”
The longstanding Gladue principle requires judges to consider the factors that may have played a part in bringing an Indigenous offender before the courts and make sentencing decisions accordingly.
“The offender’s parents, according to some of the reports, did not appear to recognize the seriousness of their son’s sexual offending,” said Molloy. “The boy also appears to have had very few rules or structure as a child, spending significant time hanging around with older males and not attending school or participating in any other organized activities.”
Molloy sentenced the offender under the Youth Criminal Justice Act to eight months in custody followed by four months under supervision in the community. That will be followed by 18 months’ probation with a lengthy list of conditions.
Molloy ordered the offender to report to – and be under the direct supervision of – the director of the NWT’s corrections service, who oversees probation officers. The offender must inform the director immediately upon being arrested or questioned by the police and cannot possess or have control of any weapon.
He must attend school, seek and maintain suitable employment, and attend any counselling, assessment, or treatment as ordered by the director.
He is forbidden from communicating with his three victims or being anywhere they are known to live, work, or go to school.
Those responsible for implementing the offender’s sentence must “read this decision and all of the documentary exhibits in their entirety,” ordered Molloy.
“It is the court’s expectation that steps are to be taken to address the concerns with regards to his security and rehabilitation.”