Whitehorse man claims misuse of justice

A Whitehorse man who won a self-represented appeal to overturn his own assault conviction in May says he's endured two years of abuse at the hands of the Yukon justice system, and he wants his name cleared.

A Whitehorse man who won a self-represented appeal to overturn his own assault conviction in May says he’s endured two years of abuse at the hands of the Yukon justice system, and he wants his name cleared.

In June of last year, John Kaswandik, 55, was convicted of assaulting and threatening his then-wife, Leet Mueller. Mueller said that at some point in the fall of 2009 or spring of 2010 Kaswandik grabbed her, threw her onto a bed, placed his knee on her chest and grabbed her throat for 10 to 15 seconds. Kaswandik was given a one-year conditional sentence.

Kaswandik denies those accusations. He said there was a physical confrontation in the fall of 2009, but it didn’t happen the way Mueller alleges it did.

“My wife attacked me in our bedroom. I got out of there, cause she was going crazy. I went across the hall to an empty room. A few minutes later she came in and started threatening me. She charged at me, and I merely wrestled her to the mattress,” he said.

Kaswandik said there were half a dozen incidents where Mueller had been violent in the past, but he simply didn’t respond. He also didn’t report any of them.

The two met in California and were married in Alaska in 2008. They have a four-year-old daughter.

At the trial, the Crown prosecutors called an RCMP officer onto the witness stand who gave evidence that Kaswandik had a history of violence, which Kaswandik said was not true.

Kaswandik said he couldn’t afford a lawyer and legal aid tried to “bully” him into admitting to something he didn’t do in the Yukon’s non-criminal Domestic Violence Treatment Option system instead of going to trial. The DTVO agreement would have included a peace bond but no criminal responsibility on Kaswandik’s part.

He refused, dismissed his lawyer and fought a self-represented appeal of the conviction, arguing successfully that the RCMP officer’s testimony should not have been admitted.

This past May he won that appeal and he will get a new jury trial tentatively scheduled for some time this fall. He said that because he is an American citizen, the Yukon justice system didn’t treat him fairly.

“The entire trial was a black comedy. Basically it was a he-said-she-said. I was arrested and presumed guilty just on what my ex-wife had said and no evidence of any sort. Normally, charges would not even be brought. Because I’m American, they were,” he said.

“If I ever leave Canada, even to go to Skagway I won’t be allowed back in, which means she’ll have permanently isolated me from my daughter,” he said.

On top of the problems with his trial, Kaswandik said that it took 14 months to come to trial in the first place, and that he was on probation the whole time.

“There is no point in a new trial. I’ve already served a severe sentence relative to the offences of which I have been charged,”

He is applying to have the charges stayed.

“The justice system is certainly biased against immigrants and men, no doubt about it. If I was either a Canadian or a woman, this wouldn’t be happening to me,” he said.

Yukon’s legal aid director Nils Clarke said that assertion is laughable, and that his department did everything it could to make sure Kaswandik was treated fairly, including pursuing the DVTO resolution that would have been the best outcome for all parties.

“We’re confident that he received more than what a person of modest means would have received were they to fund their services themselves,” Clarke said.

That claim also doesn’t stack up against the prevailing body of research.

While not commenting on Kaswandik’s case, Dr. Linda Coates, a domestic violence researcher, says that the vast majority of cases, the system is biased against the victims of domestic violence, not the accused perpetrators.

“First of all, men perpetrate the vast majority of violence. Almost 100 per cent of the perpetrators are men and the vast majority of complainants are women,” Coates said.

Coates said that domestic violence is often misrepresented in court on both sides, because of the language used to discuss it, but that it is almost always worse for the victim, not the accused.

Defendants often say that violent incidents happened during a fight, or that the victim somehow incited it. That has the effect of mutualizing the violence, Coates said, when in reality almost all violent encounters are unilateral, carried out by one person against another.

Leet Mueller said through her lawyer that she cannot comment publicly on the case because it is still before the courts.


Clarification: Since we originally published this article, domestic violence researcher Linda Coates has clarified that her comments about the high percentage of male perpetrators were made in reference to her own research, not the broader justice system as a whole. The cases Coates studied were randomly selected, and all had male perpetrators.

Contact Jesse Winter at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kwanlin Dün First Nation chief Doris Bill holds up a signed copy of the KDFN <em>Lands Act</em> agreement during an announcement at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on Oct. 20. Under the new act, called Nan kay sháwthän Däk’anúta ch’e (We all look after our land) in Southern Tutchone, KDFN will be able to allot citizens land to build their own houses on, for example, or to use for traditional activities. The First Nation will also be able to enforce laws around things like land access and littering. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s Lands Act comes into force

The act gives the First Nation the authority to manage, protect and enforce laws on its settlement lands

Two doctors in Watson Lake say they are at risk of losing their housing due to a Yukon Housing Corporation policy that only allows one pet per family. (Wikimedia Commons)
Healthcare workers in Watson Lake say housing pet policy could force them to leave

The Yukon Housing Corporation has threatened evictions for having more than one pet

The Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services building in Whitehorse on March 28, 2019. Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed for good say they were relieved to hear that the Yukon RCMP has undertaken a forensic audit into the now-defunct NGO’s financial affairs. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Former Many Rivers board members relieved to hear about forensic audit, wonder what took so long

Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed… Continue reading

Whitehorse General Hospital in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. The Yukon Employees’ Union and Yukon Hospital Corporation are at odds over whether there’s a critical staffing shortage at the territory’s hospitals. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
YEU, Yukon Hospital Corp. at odds over whether hospitals are understaffed

YEU says four nurses quit within 12 hours last week, a claim the YHC says is “inaccurate”

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates, Ray Hartling and Mark Lange, have filed a class action against the jail, corrections officials and Yukon government on behalf of everyone who’s been placed in two restrictive units over the past six years. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Class action filed against Whitehorse Correctional Centre over use of segregation

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates have filed a class action against… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Triple J’s Canna Space in Whitehorse on April 17, 2019, opens their first container of product. Two years after Canada legalized the sale of cannabis, Yukon leads the country in per capita legal sales. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon leads Canadian cannabis sales two years after legalization

Private retailers still asking for changes that would allow online sales

A sign greets guests near the entrance of the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on June 11. The city announced Oct. 16 it was moving into the next part of its phased reopening plan with spectator seating areas open at a reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CGC reopening continues

Limited spectator seating now available

During Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 19 meeting, planning manager Mélodie Simard brought forward a recommendation that a proposed Official Community Plan amendment move forward that would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend, currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
More development in Whistle Bend contemplated

OCP change would be the first of several steps to develop future area

EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Most Read