Expressions of remorse and forgiveness punctuated the sentencing hearing for a young man found guilty of impaired driving causing death and bodily harm.
Anthony Andre was sentenced on June 16 as the driver in a 2019 crash that killed two of his four passengers and seriously injured a third.
Stallion Smarch and Faith Papineau were killed when Andre hit a lamppost alongside Hamilton Boulevard early in the morning on May 13, 2019. Both were 18 years old.
The Yukon Territorial Court, presided over by Judge Peter Chisholm, heard submissions on suitable sentencing from the crown and defence lawyers as well as heartfelt statements on the impacts of the tragic crash from affected communities and from family members of the deceased on June 14. At the end of proceedings, 24-year-old Andre also rose from his seat to express his remorse.
The young man, who was 20 at the time of the fatal collision, turned to face the nearly full gallery as he spoke of the shame and guilt he has felt since the crash and the images of it still burned into his mind. He said he realizes that he has to change his behaviour but also knows that he will have to live with the guilt for the rest of his life.
Community impact statements from the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, of which Smarch was a citizen of, and Liard First Nation, which Papineau belonged to, were presented to the court along with a request that they not be read aloud.
The crown’s counsel briefly summarized them, noting the “big gap left in the hearts” of the Kwanlin Dün community by Smarch’s death and its ill effects on the First Nation’s young people. The statement from Liard describes similar impacts on youth from the communities of Watson Lake and Lower Post resulting from the loss of Papineau.
Victim impact statements from the family members of the teenagers killed in the collision were also read out or presented in person. Lane read out the victim impact statements from Smarch’s grandmother Cathy Smith and Papineau’s aunt, Anita.
Smith wrote of the devastation felt by her whole family and said it was still traumatizing for her to see or hear an ambulance.
Anita Papineau’s statement, which was illustrated by pictures of Faith as a young child projected for the court, describes her sister being “lost” following the death of her daughter and Andre’s actions as “inexcusable.”
Gabriel Smarch, Stallion’s father, addressed the court in person. He described his son’s birth as the best day of his life and that he misses him but also said that he is sorry for the pain and suffering Andre has faced as a result of the collision. He said he has no bad feelings toward Andre and his family and that he forgives him.
Diane Smith, who identified herself to the court as a Kwanlin Dün elder and Stallion Smarch’s other grandmother, also spoke. She told the court of the pain the loss of Stallion caused but appealed for forgiveness rather than retribution in Andre’s sentencing.
“Sending him to the penitentiary will do him more harm than good,” she said, added that she wants to see Andre at home in the Yukon with his family and child.
Smith and Andre embraced after the court session closed.
The court heard lawyers on both sides arguing for sentencing after the victim impact statements.
In his submissions to the judge, Crown Counsel Leo Lane stated that Andre was 100 per cent responsible for the crash and that his blood alcohol content was at least twice the legal limit. Lane said the result was the most serious of impaired driving offences. Along with the loss of life and serious injuries caused by the crash, Lane said Andre’s breaches of his release conditions prior to January 2021 are also aggravating factors.
Lane told the court the Crown is seeking a three-year jail term less the 204 days Andre is credited for time spent in custody pretrial. A ten-year driving prohibition was also sought.
Andre’s defence lawyer Malcolm Campbell presented seeking a shorter jail term and driving prohibition.
Campbell spoke about his client’s good behaviour since January of 2021 and said breaches prior to that could be explained by him turning to alcohol amid both the guilt caused by his role in the collision and the loss of his sister in an unrelated accident.
He said a jail term of 18 months followed by two years of probation would be a fit sentence when considering that Andre had spent the past 13 months in Connective, a supportive housing setting that he described as highly structured.
Campbell said employment is important for rehabilitation and noting how important a driver’s license is for finding work in the Yukon, wants the court to impose a driving prohibition of between three and five years.
Lane took issue with any credit being given for Andre’s stay at Connective noting that his stay there followed repeated breaches of his release conditions.
Chisholm delivered the sentence itself two days after the hearing on June 16. Reflecting on the statements made in the earlier hearing, Chisholm said he was struck by the profound loss and the negative community impacts caused by the young people’s deaths but also by the forgiveness offered by Stallion Smarch’s father.
The judge imposed a 30-month prison sentence for the two counts of impaired driving causing death and a further 10 months for impaired driving causing bodily harm to be served concurrently. The jail term will be served here in the Yukon. After his 204-day credit for time already served, Andre will serve 696 days.
Chisholm also ordered two years of probation, with a variety of conditions including counselling and community service, beginning after the end of Andre’s time behind bars.
The six year driving prohibition imposed by the court was reduced by the 31 months Andre has already been prohibited. He will not be able to drive for 41 months following his release.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org