The lack of remorse shown by a Yellowknife man convicted of sexually assaulting a former schoolmate in 2019 should not result in extra punishment, his lawyer says.
Felix Christophe Flamand, now 21, was found guilty after trial in NWT Territorial Court of sexually assaulting a female teenager at a summer drinking party off the Ingraham Trail outside Yellowknife.
The victim told the court she had experienced psychological harm as a result of the assault and suffers extreme anxiety and paranoia.
Flamand has maintained his innocence.
“Lack of remorse … should not be used to impose a sentencing surcharge on top of what otherwise would be an appropriate sentence,” Stephanie Whitecloud-Brass told Deputy Judge Christine Gagnon at Friday’s sentencing hearing.
“The pre-sentence report states that at the time the interview was conducted, Felix maintained his innocence and … although his position in this regard hasn’t changed, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel sorry that these matters had to come before court or for what [the victim] is claiming that she’s gone through.
“And it doesn’t mean that he isn’t willing to accept the sentence handed down by your honour.”
Whitecloud-Brass argued her client should be able to serve his sentence in the community with six months’ full house arrest, then six months of overnight curfew, followed by a year of probation.
“A conditional sentence is defined as a sentence of imprisonment that is less than actual prison,” said Whitecloud-Brass. “However, it is more than simply probation. It is meant to be rehabilitative – to address over-incarceration – which is a factor to be considered given, that we’re currently going through a pandemic.
“When we look at the individual circumstances of Felix Flamand, defence counsel respectfully submits that whatever his sentence may be, it would be better served in the community.”
Whitecloud-Brass told the court the victim had written about the assault on social media before the case went to trial in 2020. Various delays, attributed in part to the Covid-19 pandemic, pushed sentencing back until this month.
The lawyer asked the judge to “take into account the fact that in the court of public opinion … Felix has already suffered some of the consequences that go along with being found guilty but, unfortunately, before he was even found guilty.”
As a result of online posts, Whitecloud-Brass said, Flamand lost friends and two jobs “before the trial even had a chance to conclude.”
“Yellowknife is a small place where everyone seems to know everyone,” she said, “and Felix is all too aware of this now.”
Conditional sentence ‘not adequate’
Crown prosecutor Madison Walls asked the judge to impose a jail term of 15 months, followed by 18 months of probation.
“The sentence of 15 months’ incarceration would appropriately address the goals of denunciation and deterrence and acknowledge the harm to the victim [and] society’s abhorrence of sexual violence,” said Walls.
Referring to legal precedents, Walls said they confirmed that the digital penetration at the centre of this case is “a serious and invasive form of sexual assault and that, in sentencing charges of sexual assault, it is proper to consider the likelihood of psychological harm to the victim.”
The prosecutor said the victim had “experienced extreme psychological harm, as has been outlined in her victim impact statement. She has talked about feeling dehumanized, about feeling broken, about feeling how she could not trust others.”
Walls said sexual assaults are a “major issue” in the Northwest Territories and she “would suggest that a conditional sentence order would not adequately promote a sense of responsibility in Mr Flamand, nor acknowledge the harm done.”
Judge Gagnon retired from the NWT bench last year and is now serving as a part-time jurist. She was appearing on Friday by video from Ontario. Flamand’s mother, who flew in from Quebec for the hearing, was allowed to sit beside her son at the defence table.
The victim’s parents sat behind the Crown in the public gallery. Their daughter does not currently live in Yellowknife.
Gagnon reserved her decision until January 31.