Judge ignored Indigenous sentencing report while giving Inuk man open-ended sentence, appeals court rules

The top court in Quebec has annulled the dangerous offender status and the ensuing indeterminate prison sentence for an Inuk man from Quebec’s far north. (Charles Contant/CBC)
A trial judge unfairly ignored an Inuk man’s abusive and violent upbringing when slapping him with an indeterminate prison sentence for a string of sexual assaults, Quebec’s Court of Appeal has ruled.

Joe Kritik, 32, was given an open-ended prison sentence last year after being declared a dangerous offender by Quebec Court Judge Claude Bigué.

Kritik, who has a long history of sexual offences, had been convicted of seven sexual assaults on Inuit women “in positions of vulnerability” between 2005 and 2014.

But earlier this week, the Quebec Court of Appeal removed Kritik’s dangerous offender status and ordered him to be re-sentenced.

The appeal court judges wrote Bigué had erred by not ordering a full psychiatric assessment and by ignoring information contained in a Gladue report, a pre-sentencing document for Indigenous offenders.

The report detailed Kritik’s dysfunctional family situation in Tasiujaq, a village of 300 people in eastern Nunavik, the Inuit region of northern Quebec. It also described Kritik’s loss of culture, a serious head injury he suffered, numerous suicide attempts and the physical and sexual abuse he experienced at a young age.

‘Highly problematic upbringing’

Writing for the majority, Justice Nicole Duval Hesler said Kritik had a “highly problematic upbringing,” which should have been taken into account at sentencing.

Hesler also questioned why Bigué, the trial judge, turned down a request for Kritik to undergo a psychiatric assessment.

That decision was “surprising given the severe consequences of his judgment,” Hesler wrote, also noting a nurse who treated Kritik had raised the possibility he was schizophrenic.

She said the decision to declare Kritik a dangerous offender and give him an open-ended sentence was based on an incomplete consideration of the information that was before the court.

“[T]he fact remains that the resulting sentence, as a whole, strikes one as insensitive to the specific reality of the Inuit people, who appear to be quite distinct,” she wrote.

Along with ordering a new sentencing hearing before a different judge and setting aside the dangerous offender status, the appeals court ordered that Kritik undergo a complete psychiatric assessment.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Death in the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic special report

Finland: Police in Northern Finland overstretched, says retiring officer, Yle News

Sweden: Cross-border Nordic policing would better serve Arctic: politician, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. Attorney General hears from Indigenous leaders about justice problems in rural Alaska, Alaska Public Media

Elias Abboud, CBC News

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