When sentencing the younger of two girls who set a fire at the Canada Games Centre last year, Yukon territorial court Judge Michael Cozens said he is concerned the 12-year-old will “fall short of her full potential.”
The girl was given two years’ probation and 240 hours community service in court on Thursday. It was the same sentence Cozens gave her 13-year-old friend for the same charge in February.
Assessment and reports from the girl’s teachers and principals described her as “disengaged.” They said she underachieves at school because she’s not interested, not because she’s not intelligent.
The girl told the court-ordered assessors she doesn’t think she has any close friends and considers herself a “bad person.”
The girl’s parents split up when she was younger and Cozens noted that she has had to endure animosity between her mother and father since she was a baby. The assessors said this has led to her real dislike for adults and school.
She is defiant to authority if she knows she can get away with it, said Cozens. She hasn’t been involved in any pro-social programs, exercise or groups since about the age of 10.
The girl turned 12 only weeks before she and the 13-year-old lit the handle of a speedskating mat on fire at the ATCO rink in the Canada Games Centre in June 2011.
After running through the centre and not telling anyone about the fire, they decided to lay the blame on an older First Nation girl.
Cozens read out a text conversation between the two girls from later that night in which they decided to “stick to the native story” and ended with them agreeing that “when we get older we’ll party about this.”
The 12-year-old pleaded guilty to the charges, saying she wished she had never done it.
The prosecution asked Cozens to give her the same sentence as the 13-year-old while the defence asked only for a judicial reprimand, which is a stern warning.
Not only was the 12-year-old the younger of the two, but both girls’ actions were simply foolish and the results went well beyond what either of them could have imagined, said the girl’s lawyer, Malcolm Campbell.
He said there was no intended malice nor any indication she will re-offend.
But Cozens said he doesn’t find the girl any less responsible than the 13-year-old because of her age or any other reason.
For both girls, the fact they didn’t alert anyone about the fire, and then later devised a plan to blame someone else instead of coming forward at the time, were significant factors in his decisions.
He noted a victim impact statement from centre manager Art Manhire, which talked about the five months it took to rebuild after the damage. Manhire also talked about children having nightmares after seeing the fire and the grief it caused them to have to live without the centre and its services.
The stress in the months after the fire also led to numerous staff resignations, Manhire’s statement said.
The overall cost of the damages is about $7 million.
For the first year of her probation, the 12-year-old has a curfew. For the full two years, she can’t have any contact with the 13-year-old and she’s not allowed to use any computer, phone or incendiary device unless under direct supervision.
Both girls are also barred from the games centre.
But Cozens said he hoped Manhire may reconsider and allow the girls to complete some of their community service work at the centre in the area where the most damage was done.
Cozens also said he hoped this crime doesn’t become a “ball and chain” for the young girl, holding her back from becoming the person she is capable of being.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at