Court of Appeal in Nunavut releases decisions on Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Nunavut – June 18, 2020 – On June 8, 2020, the Nunavut Court of Appeal released its decisions in R. v. Itturiligaq and R. v. Ookowt. The Court of Appeal determined that the mandatory minimum sentence of four years for discharging a firearm contrary to s. 244.2(1)(a) of the Criminal Code was constitutional.

In R. v. Ookowt, the Appeal Court emphasized the intent of Parliament to give primacy to deterrence and denunciation in addressing firearms violence, and the prevalence of this highly dangerous conduct in Nunavut. The court also addressed the intersection of intoxication and violence and found that, contrary to the views of the sentencing judge, Mr. Ookowt’s resort to violence while intoxicated was an aggravating factor.

In R. v. Itturiligaq, the Court of Appeal held that the law was intended to apply to gun violence in Nunavut that is intimidating and threatening to a domestic partner, particularly given the disproportionate extent to which Aboriginal women are affected by violence. Indigenous women in northern communities are entitled to the same protection from the Court as anyone else.

“The PPSC welcomes the decisions and the emphasis upon protecting Indigenous women from threats, intimidation and gun violence,” said Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussel.

The Court accepted that there was an important intersection between Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit and Canadian criminal law rules and processes, when sentencing an Inuit offender.  Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit is a body of knowledge and unique cultural insights of Inuit into the workings of nature, humans and animals.

“The guidance provided by the court of appeal on the application of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit will be of assistance to the crown in the future as the PPSC continues to develop best practices for consulting with the Inuit community to provide the prosecutors and the courts with evidence about Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit in the context of sentencing,” said Shannon O’Connor, Chief Federal Prosecutor of the Nunavut Regional Office. “The PPSC will also be considering how concerns about a sentence to be served outside Nunavut should be taken into account in developing its sentencing positions.”

The PPSC, including the Nunavut Regional Office, is committed to fostering a healthy relationship with the community it serves. As a prosecution service, we recognize that there is always more that we can do to ensure fairness in the administration of justice. “We need to listen and learn from the Inuit community to ensure that their voices are heard and considered in all aspects of the criminal justice system, including the sentencing process, in Nunavut” added Ms. O’Connor.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada is a national organization responsible for prosecuting offences under federal jurisdiction in a manner that is free of any improper influence and that respects the public interest. The PPSC is also responsible for providing prosecution-related advice to law enforcement agencies across Canada.

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