April Baker holds a photo of her son who was killed in 2016, Raine Silas, outside of the Link building in Pelly Crossing on Aug. 22. In response to the sentencing of her sons killer on Oct. 2, Baker says the justice system has failed her family and the community. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News file)

Mother of slain Pelly Crossing teen says killer’s sentence “a slap in the face”

April Baker, mother of 18-year-old Raine Silas, says the justice system failed her son

The mother of Pelly Crossing teen Raine Silas, who died in 2016 after another man struck him in the head with a two-by-four, says the sentence her son’s killer received earlier this month felt like “a big slap in the face.”

Silas died in November 2016 hours after getting into a fight with Tristan Joe, now 32. Joe was originally charged with second-degree murder in relation to Silas’s death, but later pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

In Pelly Crossing Oct. 2, territorial court judge Peter Chisholm sentenced Joe to four and a half years in jail followed by three years’ probation. As is standard practice, Chisholm gave Joe credit for the time he’s already spent in custody, meaning he will serve another 20 months in jail before he’s released.

In a written statement provided to the News Oct. 10, Silas’s mother, April Baker, said she was shocked by the outcome.

“The justice system failed my son, my family and our community. In my opinion, our justice system in the Yukon and in Canada is weak when it comes to dealing with Indigenous People,” she wrote in the statement, dated Oct. 2.

At several points throughout the statement, Baker wrote that she thinks that Joe is guilty of a more serious crime and is critical of several aspects of the justice system, including Gladue reports, which explore the unique personal circumstances of Indigenous offenders.

She also disputed several points in the case’s agreed statement of facts, writing that Joe and Silas were not friends and that Joe had “jumped” Silas in retaliation for a fight they had the night before.

“What happened to my son on (the night of Nov. 3, 2016) is nobody else’s fault, but Tristan’s alone,” Baker wrote. “I love Tristan’s family, but I do not love Tristan and I do not forgive him… My son was only 18 years old and he was a better man than Tristan could ever be at 30!”

“I don’t understand what the judge and lawyers saw in Tristan, but I saw no remorse, just a desperate man trying to get away with his horrible actions causing death and tragedy in his community…and he did tear apart families, friends and our community!” the statement concludes. “…The whole Yukon Territory is appalled and even angry at the abysmal sentence Tristan received… My family felt a big slap in the face, a total let down.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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