Warning: This report contains details of a sexual assault case, as heard in court, that readers may find disturbing.
A man who entered a house and raped a sleeping woman in Fort Smith had lived a life of crime after being mistreated as a child, a court heard last week.
William Paul Beaulieu, 45, was sentenced on Friday in NWT Supreme Court to three years in custody, plus two years’ supervised probation, for the June 2020 attack in the South Slave community.
The woman’s identity is protected by a court order. She chose not to submit a victim impact statement to the court.
Justice Shannon Smallwood said Beaulieu’s life “has been impacted by the legacy of residential schools” and by the resulting severe familial dysfunction.
“He experienced things that no child or youth should have to experience,” she said as Beaulieu looked on via video link from the Fort Smith Correctional Complex.
“His life has been impacted by alcohol abuse, drug abuse, sexual abuse, suicide attempts, family violence, trauma, grief, bullying, and insecurity surrounding the basic things that a child should be able to take for granted.
“Alcohol has been a regular part of his life since he was a child, and has been a significant factor in his criminal offending.”
The adult woman had been at a party in Fort Smith.
As the party’s attendees – including the owner of the house – eventually left the party, the woman fell asleep on the couch. She awoke pinned beneath Beaulieu to find him raping her.
“She told him to get off of her,” the judge said. “He responded by saying something like, ‘I’m almost done,’ and continued having sexual intercourse with her.”
Beaulieu was also charged with unlawfully entering other houses in the community that night. He was sentenced to nine months in jail for those offences in August 2020.
Defence lawyer Kate Oja told the court her client claims to have been blackout drunk when he sexually assaulted the sleeping woman.
Beaulieu had initially chosen a jury trial in Fort Smith but later pleaded guilty. In exchange for that plea, the Crown withdrew a charge of unlawfully being in the house where the woman was sleeping.
Justice Smallwood said the guilty plea deserves some credit as it eliminated the need for the victim to prepare for testifying in court and also provides certainty of what happened to the woman’s family, friends, and the community.
Earlier in the sentencing hearing, Oja told the court Beaulieu and his siblings experienced a rough upbringing as a child, with an absent father and a “very difficult” relationship with his mother.
“He was a witness to her alcohol consumption, her drug use, as well as her sexual encounters with men,” said the judge, adding: “He once witnessed her attempting to slice her own wrist.”
Living between Alberta and Fort Smith, Beaulieu was apprehended four times by Alberta social workers. He was sexually and physically assaulted by relatives, the court heard.
Both of his parents were murdered: his mother in Edmonton, his father in Vancouver. His grandparents custom-adopted him.
Beaulieu started using alcohol and drugs in his teens, as well as committing crimes. That included a sexual assault while he was still a youth.
His criminal record contains 30 entries, including crimes of violence.
Crown prosecutor Brendan Green noted Beaulieu is Indigenous, requiring the court to take into consideration the Gladue factors — the unique systemic or background factors that may have played a part in bringing an Indigenous offender before the courts.
Charbonneau accepted the joint sentencing recommendation of three years, which was reduced to 19 months after deducting credit for pre-trial custody and the time from his sentence while in custody last year.
As that sentence is below two years, he qualifies for a period of supervised probation, which will be two years.
Under that probation, he can have no contact directly or indirectly with the victim, must participate in counselling as recommended – including residential treatment, which Beaulieu said he needs – and cannot consume or possess alcohol outside his residence.
There will be a DNA sample collected and his name will be entered on the national sex offenders’ registry for 20 years. He will be unable to possess a firearm for 10 years.
A pre-sentence report stated Beaulieu has begun to take counselling and make progress in how he deals with his personal beliefs, behaviours, and attitudes.
He has indicated he would like to apologize to the victim at some point, if she agrees.