The youth who killed 17-year-old Brandy Vittrekwa in December 2014, beating her and leaving her for dead in Whitehorse’s McIntyre subdivision, will soon be released from custody to serve the rest of his sentence under community supervision in British Columbia.
Yukon Territorial Court Judge Peter Chisholm approved a plan May 11 following a sentence review for the youth to attend university in British Columbia upon completing his custodial sentence June 16.
The youth, who was 15 at the time of the crime, cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. He was sentenced in 2016 to two years in custody and one year under supervision in the community after pleading guilty to manslaughter.
During the review May 11, Crown attorney Ludovic Gouaillier told Chisholm that a report on the youth’s progress shows that he is continuing to “perform relatively well.” His plan to relocate to British Columbia for university is a “good solution,” Gouaillier said, to address concerns from Vittrekwa’s family about seeing the youth after he’s released and allowing the youth to continue pursuing rehabilitation and education.
The only “alarm bell” right now, Gouaillier continued, was that the youth has recently “somewhat fell behind in his studies,” possibly putting his university acceptance and scholarships at risk, but appears to have “hunkered down” with school work again.
The British Columbia government is expected to take over supervision responsibilities once the youth moves there and has agreed to the transfer, Gouaillier added.
The youth’s lawyer, Cathy Rasmussen, said the youth has been getting extra support from teachers and is “quite motivated to buckle down and get the school work done” to ensure that he can attend university. He has also been doing well in counselling, Rasmussen added, and recently had a “positive” meeting with a support team in British Columbia.
Speaking directly to Chisholm, the youth admitted to having fallen behind in school but said that he has now made it a priority to catch up, putting aside work and community visit opportunities so he can focus on studying.
“At this point, there will be no rehabilitating if I don’t finish my school,” he said.
He also thanked Chisholm for the rehabilitative opportunities the judge has granted him while he’s been in custody.
“The circumstances were really shitty, no one should have to go through that,” the youth said, referring to Vittrekwa’s death. “That’s basically what keeps me going, remembering that…. It’s not just about my future, it’s about the future I took away.”
In approving the youth’s transfer to British Columbia, Chisholm said he’s “pleased” with the progress the youth has made while in custody and that it was clear the youth has been taking his punishment and rehabilitative opportunities seriously.
“Although you can’t undo the crime that you committed, you can, in my view, diligently follow the plan that is being initiated for you, and you can continually strive to address your risk factors in order that you never hurt another person,” Chisholm said.
“In my view, you should be moving forward focused on the opportunity that you have as opposed to succumbing to the pressures that might accompany that opportunity. Instead of getting caught up in the possibility of failure, you should embrace the chance to learn and expand your horizons.”
Chisholm placed several conditions on the youth’s community supervision term, including agreements to keep the peace, appear in court when required, maintain a curfew, attend any counselling as ordered and abstain from possessing or using alcohol and non-prescription drugs.
He must also not contact several people related to the case, and will also be prohibited from attending the Canada Games Centre, F. H. Collins Secondary School, the Individual Learning Centre, the McIntyre subdivision and any other “reasonably set out location.”
The plan is scheduled to be reviewed again on June 14, and the youth’s progress will be subject to another review three months after he arrives in British Columbia.
With files from Ashley Joannou
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org