The Yukon Territorial Court heard guilty pleas and imposed a prison sentence on a man charged with sexual interference against two young girls.
The case dates back to 2020.
There is a publication ban in place protecting the identities of the victims and witnesses. Because the sexual interference took place in a small Yukon community, the name of the man who was convicted and the name of the community are also protected from publication.
The man pleaded guilty to two separate incidents of sexual interference with young girls. Judge Herman J. Seidemann III read his ruling to the court on March 30.
The judgement notes that in both cases, the guilty man was intoxicated by alcohol and was in the victims’ family homes where he was welcomed as a friend.
The defence proposed a four month conditional sentence order, while the crown was seeking 19 to 22 months of jail time.
A conditional sentence order, also known as house arrest, means offenders serve their time outside of prison.
Seidemann’s ruling noted that in previous assault cases ending in conditional sentences, the victims were 14, 16 and 17 years old. In this case, the victims were substantially younger.
A victim impact statement provided by the mother of each victim also swayed Seidemann away from a conditional sentence, he said.
“In the victim impact statements, the victim’s mother says she sees the system as protecting [the offender’s] rights, not the victim’s rights,” Seidemann said.
“If you were allowed to serve your sentence in the community, I think that would reinforce that belief in her and in the community. The community must see that we, as a society, take this behaviour seriously.”
In his ruling, Seidemann states the sentence proposed by the convicted man’s counsel is not even close to acceptable for the offences which he describes as “a very real sexual assault against [young] girls.”
Seidemann found the convicted man’s position of trust with one victim and the fact that he lured her away from her friends in order to assault her to be an aggravating factor.
The judge sentenced the man to 18 months imprisonment for the two offences, eight for one and 10 for the other. The man will also be on probation for three years after his release with conditions including required counselling for alcohol abuse and psychological issues and avoiding a variety of public settings where young people may be present unless given permission by his probation officer. He will also have to register as a sex offender.
The judge acknowledged the sincere apology the guilty man made in court, abuse in perpetrator’s past and efforts to better himself since committing the offences. He also recommended a formal apology to the community through a process the local First Nation has in place and that the guilty man abstain from alcohol but did not order either as a probation condition.
Child and Youth Advocate: Apologies can heal
Annette King, the Yukon’s Child and Youth Advocate said in instances like the sexual abuse case, court proceedings can slow or halt the healing process — she said it is important that healing extends to individuals, families and whole communities.
King said the situation is far from unique as more than 90 per cent of sexual violence is committed by someone the victim knows.
In her years of work with victims of child abuse, King said she has not seen any kind of common reaction to the sentencing of perpetrators the victim knows. She said some want longer sentences while others want to restore the relationship.
A major part of the office of the Yukon Child and Youth Advocate Office’s work is promoting the viewpoints of young people and their rights as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). King cited articles of the UNCRC aimed at protecting children from harm and promoting recovery when they are harmed.
King made it clear that the vast majority of abused people don’t go on to be abusers but noted that the perpetrators of these crimes who were themselves abused as children were denied healing when they were young.
She added that there can also be a place for sincere apologies that can acknowledge harm done and facilitate healing.
“There’s not one perfect answer; some victims need it and some just need to move on or just don’t believe that the apology is sincere,” King said.
Anyone in the Yukon can contact Victim Services to get support or to talk about options. You do not need a referral.
These services are available to you if you were a victim of a crime, if you witnessed a crime, or if you are a parent, friend or family member of a victim.
Victim Services has offices in Dawson City, Watson Lake and Whitehorse and can be reached at 867-667-8500 or toll-free at 1-800-661-0408, extension 8500. You may also stop by in person at any of these locations.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org